A few weeks ago, I received an email from our good friend JC over at JCDfitness, with a link and a simple message: “I can’t believe this is free.” What he linked me was to an ebook being offered by Matthew Perryman, titled (appropriately) “Maximum Muscle.” Interest piqued and espresso pulled, I dove in for a read. “A read” turned into “I accidentally the whole thing” (internet joke, don’t worry). Onward to the review!So who the hell is Matt?
If you believe his website, he’s “somewhere between a personal trainer, coach, online consultant, open source advocate, and journalist.” I only knew of him through Lyle Mcdonald’s forum, where he frequently posts with enormous sarcasm and tactless honesty (more on that later). I had no idea he was writing a book, so imagine my surprise when it dropped into my inbox.
What’s the book all about?
It’s about, erm, maximum muscle. Namely, maximizing your muscle. Specifically, it’s about any athlete in need of more muscle tissue and how to best program their training given their circumstance. According to Matt, he’s taken 3 years to write this and thrown it out 3 times due to boredom, other interests, and obligations. The book itself is divided into 5 chapters spread across 225 pages (including citations and references). The chapters tell the tale:
- The Logic Of Exercise
- A Look At The Science
- Muscle Outside The Lab
- Philosophy Of Program Design
- Programming Strategies
Each chapter has multiple subdivisions pertaining to the chapter itself, covering everything from GH (means almost fuck-all) to planning your training (just about every variation under the sun). There isn’t anything here that isn’t covered or mentioned, as long as the method has some grounding in science and/or proper programming, as opposed to merely being because the “bros say so.”
So in spite leaning heavily on academic papers, and being grounded in logic, Matt’s writing style isn’t. He’s fun and easy about the topics at hand, much more conversational than dry and OCD. All the details are there and referenced, but he doesn’t mire in minutia unless it’s absolutely necessary. For example, Matt will even encourage you to skip sections because it’s minutia:
It’s taken for granted in some circles that you need to train until your testosterone level drops, or you need to create growth hormone spikes, or you need to block cortisol because it makes you catabolic. I think people are looking at this in the wrong way. The hormones are not a cause, but an effect. If you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, the hormones will play along. If you’re not interested, this is one of those optional sections that you can skip without missing much. (Emphasis mine)
In a time when people can take one idea that should go in a pamplet and write an entire book on the subject, it’s nice to see an author who tells you what you can skip without missing the message.
Why should you read it?
This is a curious question. You should read it if you need more muscle, but that’s a matter of just lifting more weight over long periods of time and not being an OCD idiot and switching routines every 3rd day, right? Yes, in fact, that’s true. However, what Matt has done here is given all of the why and how of muscle growth in different circumstances and later gives examples of how to apply this to your unique situation. While a college kid on summer break can just work out all day long, eat a shitton of food because they’re not stopped growing, have a sloppy drunk lay at 2am, get 3 hours of sleep and still make progress, those of us with jobs and lives will have to modify our approach as our training career wears on.
Matt mires in detail so you don’t have to: It doesn’t matter what your GH and test are doing, it doesn’t matter if you know the latest, greatest routine from the 250lb roid monkey on the cover of the muscle mag. Matt is giving you a huge amount of information, asking you to think for yourself, noting that his “mess” can be summed up quite simply:
This ties in with one of my key themes: for all you can pull out the magnifying glass and look at things down to the fine details, there’s only so much you can actually do at the gym or in the kitchen. I know it’s hard to believe that there’s only a few relevant principles from all that mess I threw at you. That’s the whole point, though – simplicity emerges from complexity. The science is only working to solidify and reinforce the basics that have been known since even the old-time strongmen. The implementations are different, sure, but the biggest difference is that there’s now more raw data for the Labcoats to obsess over.
Specifically, Matt boils down needs based on levels (and it’s quite brilliant):
- IF YOU’RE A BEGINNER: ADD WEIGHT TO THE BAR
- IF YOU’RE INTERMEDIATE: VARY THE STRESS
- IF YOU’RE ADVANCED: PLAN YOUR GAINS
There, I just told you all the secrets. Everything you need to know about training over the course of your existance on this blue sphere is listed in bullet-point. Now, if you want to go read all about it, devour all the information, become a know-it-all, become humble, and have a routine that looks quite a bit like it did when you first began (only you’re much, much stronger), I suggest you go a get a copy of Maximum Muscle.